While reading The Attack by Yasmina Khadra I found myself unable to emotionally detach from the events.
"The margin between assimilation and disintegration is quite narrow..." —Khadra
I take the words out of the context of the book, leave aside the thorny issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict and read those words in a broad context.
Did assimilation or disintegration begin when my ancestors came from Russia and Poland and lost part of their names to a clerk at Ellis Island?
They kept their language by speaking Yiddish to each other and lived in tenements where the aroma of gefilte fish drenched the stairwells. On Friday they prepared for Shabbos and walked to shul to chant the prayers.
They said, “Gut Shabbos.”
I say , “Shabbat Shalom”
Each generation became more American. Yiddish—lost in the mouths of their children and in the cries of those who died in gas chambers —now studied as a language with a few embers left.
Words and phrases crept into our English lexicon, savored as colorful phrases, but no longer serviceable as a complete language.
To become more American means shucking off the garments that you once wore, losing an accent, learning new vowels and consonants, while maintaining some ties.
There are losses to hanging on too dearly to accustomed ways. "The way to succeed" the old man tells his son,” is to become American."
My grandfather davened every day; my father went to shul with his father on the High Holy Days and chanted the ancient melodies. The other days his talis and yamulka sat in the top drawer of his bureau. Each generation drifted.
I read transliterated Hebrew.
I say tallit and kuppa.